Uniform Framework for Extended Producers Responsibility

“Extended Producer Responsibility” may be defined as a policy principle to promote total life cycle environmental improvements of product systems by extending the responsibilities of the manufacturer of the product to various parts of the entire life cycle of the product, and especially the take-back, recycling and final disposal of the product1.
The system is based on the premise that producers are required to provide a financial incentive to the collection systems, processing facilities and the recycling industry to collect and process plastic waste in order to meet the targets set out by the Government. The plain interpretation of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 illustrates the primary responsibility for the collection of used multi-layered plastic sachet or pouches or packaging is of
Producers (manufacturers, importers and users(brand owners)), Importers and Brand Owners who introduce the products in the market. They need to establish a system for collecting back the plastic waste generated due to their products. Rule 6(3) mention that the local body for setting up a system for plastic waste management shall seek the assistance of producers. However,
the Rule is silent on allocating any responsibility to the producer/importer/brand-owner for establishing other parts of waste management systems like transportation, material recovery, recycling and final disposal.
For the overall implementation of the EPR framework, it is important that the producer/importer/brand-owner should be involved in the overall implementation of the projects and not only the collection.

Some of the guiding principles for the uniform framework for EPR:

  • The Uniform EPR framework is brand and geography neutral.
  • Producer, importer, brand owner is free to adopt any or all the EPR models at the same time (except fee-based model)
  • EPR scheme shall be uniform across India as any anomaly between states will complicate its implementation.
  • A single national registry for the registration of all stakeholders like producers, importers, brand-owners, recyclers, PROs etc with allocation methods to meet individual state data requirements. Development of an end to end EPR digital transaction platform, which has all producers (FMCG, Brand Owners, Plastic Manufacturers, Importers, Super Stockists, Distributors and retail chains) and Plastic Recovery Organisations (PRO) (waste collectors, sorters & bailers, Recyclers) empanelled onto the platform.
  • The ownership of portals and digital exchange should rest with the Government like GST to ensure protection and confidentiality of members’ data.
  • Spends incurred on awareness campaigns and capacity building are not considered towards compliance of EPR obligation(except fee-based model where Government use the funds for the purpose). This can be spent under the CSR budget.
  • The program should motivate keeping waste plastics in circulation in the economy at the highest value and for as long as possible in accordance with the waste management hierarchy: Reduce> Reuse > Recycle > Recover > Dispose
  • The program shall promote the inclusion of waste pickers in a manner which improves their working conditions and incomes.
  • The program design shall minimize trading barriers within India and lower producer compliance costs to support an effective and efficient national market.
  • The EPR obligation for MLP shall be higher than the normal recyclable plastic. The producer, importer, the brand owner shall have to pay a higher cost for EPR of MLP.
  • The EPR model as outlined promotes the increased circularity of plastics through incentivizing source separation recycling programs. This includes, directly and indirectly supporting improvements in the working conditions and incomes of informal recyclers.
  • Consistent with the Rules, the program will also allow and provide support for the management of plastics through a tiered system under plastic credit model:
    • mechanical and hybrid recycling systems (preferred option as it’s holding the material at its highest value)
    • alternative uses such as road construction and building materials
    • the recovery of energy from low-grade plastics through cement kilns, energy from waste plants etc.
    • development of innovative technologies uniquely suited to the India market
  • The purpose of issuing evidence notes in the beginning stages of the program will be to certify the types and weights of obligated plastics managed through each contracted entity under the program. Over time, this may also provide the basis for the evolution of a “plastic recycling credit note” system to promote potential efficiencies, once the overall the program has matured and the viability and integrity of the trading system can be assured.

Ministry notified Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 on 18th March 2016. As per the Rules, the generators of waste have been mandated to take steps to minimize generation of plastic waste, not to litter the plastic waste, ensure segregated storage of waste at source and handover segregated waste to local bodies or agencies authorised by the local bodies. The rules also mandate the responsibilities of local bodies, gram panchayats, waste generators, retailers and street vendors to manage plastic waste. The Rules mandates several new provisions including the provision of Extended Producers Responsibility.

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